Month: December 2012

Mourning

Two nights ago at dinner we were talking about Sandy Hook. Kennedy wanted to pray for the families and teachers and everyone there. We prayed. Then we talked for a minute. And then my daughter looked at me and said:

It feels like just thinking about it is going to make me cry.

And for the 967,435 time since I became a dad, my kids taught/reminded me of something important.

Romans 12:15 tells us to, “mourn with those who mourn.” I have spent far too little time since Friday letting the tragedy bring tears to my eyes. I have spent far too little time crying out to God for an end to the violence. But Romans 12 is clear. Being part of the Church means entering into others joy and sadness. 

God, I confess that I care way too much about my corner of the world and do not allow my heart to break with others hearts. Help me. And thanks for kids that show me who you are over and over again. Amen.

What Can We Do? (And No, I Don’t Mean Gun Control)

Yesterday, as the stories continued to come out of Newtown, CT, I kept hearing people on the radio say the same thing. It was something along the lines of:

This is different than Superstorm Sandy, with that I could give money or go help clean up. With this, it feels like there is nothing I can do.

For a moment I thought how true this was. Then I remembered God. He calls us into broken places to bring his hope and healing, so there must be something we can do. If you’re a follower of Jesus here are some things you can do:

  1. Pray. For the victims families. For the kids who lost friends and are hurting and scared. For the faculty. For the community. For the churches in the community.For the family of the shooter. 
  2. Organize or lead a church/community prayer gathering.
  3. Connect with a church in your denomination in the area and find out ways you can help. I would guess that Christmas meals, gifts, general meals are being provided for lots of families. If you want to contribute, call a church and do it!
  4. Pay attention. There are people in your world that God is calling you to notice and love with His love. Put down your internet machines for long enough to be present wherever you are. There are hurting people who are NOT ok that need you to notice and care.
Having honest conversations about guns and mental healthcare and whatever else all seem important to me, but much less important than caring for the people of the community in Newtown and the community outside your front door.
May we listen well to the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to love others with our whole selves! 

Monday Wondering (or Wandering)

  • I wonder if anything useful can be said about guns. There is a third way in the conversation. I’m not sure anyone wants to find it, though. And, if you’re a baseball bat arguer (bats are #1 weapon in domestic disputes or something to that effect so why don’t we ban them?), just stop. It’s ridiculous. No one has gone on a mass killing spree using a bat. Let’s talk about guns. Specifically the kind that are not made or allowed for hunting animals but are really good at hunting large groups of people. Please, in rational words, help me understand why anyone needs a gun like that? (FYI- I know LOTS of super responsible gun owners. Their guns are locked up and their kids don’t have access. I’m not trying to attack the 2nd amendment. I’m trying to understand our NEED as a nation to own these incredibly destructive weapons.)(2nd parentheses: I have no agenda or side on this. I want to hear from all sides and opinions. If you want to comment, please do so respectfully.)
  • I wonder if we will have any more pukers in our house by the end of the day or stick at the current count of one.
  • I wonder how many other parents will hug their kids a little tighter this morning as their kids head to school and pause for just a moment of fear and worry.
  • I wonder why God is sometimes so hard for some people to find. Not letting go of self? Not really wanting God? I don’t know. But it breaks my heart over and over and over again.
  • I wonder if my youngest sleeping 6 hours in a row this last week was an aberration or a sign of my wife getting more sleep very soon. 
  • I wonder how God felt on Friday. And how he feels as he walks with families in CT this morning. I can attribute words to him, like sadness or anger or compassion, but I don’t know how God experiences those emotions.

What do you wonder today?

Stuck in the Wrong Story

Matthew 12:13-14

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Jesus performed miracles. Over and over again. And sometimes he performed them in times and places that the leaders of the time didn’t like. The story of the man with a shriveled hand takes place on the Sabbath, a day set aside for rest. The Pharisees had turned the day into an absolute mess with law after law after law to make sure Sabbath was kept. In the process they had lost vision of relationship and loving God and others. 

On this particular Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples had already upset the Pharisees by picking grain to eat. So, the Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus: they would give him a chance to heal someone and see if he took the bait. 

Does anyone else see how ridiculous their trap is?

Jesus takes the “bait”, shows compassion, love, and grace, and heals the man. IT’S A MIRACLE! This man’s life is changed. He can now work and provide for any family he has. He can be a part of normal society rather than live as a beggar.

So obviously the Pharisees see their error and repent. Wait, what? Oh yeah, they leave angry at Jesus and plot to kill him.

They had lost the story. They had forgotten that the story of God had been about bringing freedom, creating community, and bringing deliverance. They were stuck in the stories of power, perfection, and legalism.

Sometimes I get stuck in the wrong story, too. Usually I get stuck in the story of self-pity or self-doubt. Or some over-inflated sense of pride in myself outside of Jesus. I would imagine that you can name your stories that you get stuck in, too.

When we get stuck in wrong stories, we are not about God’s kingdom. So we have to get unstuck. I suggest a couple things:

  • Pray about it
  • Tell someone you’re stuck
  • Have them pray with you about it
  • Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will pull you into his story as you see the story he lived and showed

What story are you stuck in?

Give me Christ or else I die!

Matthew 9

I was brought to my knees earlier this week as I read Matthew 9. Take a few minutes and go read it (here it is)…

Here’s what gets me in this chapter:
Someone has faith.
Jesus heals them, it seems both physically and spiritually (“Your sins are forgiven” v2)
The healing gets proclaimed throughout the region (26 & 31)

And at the end of this chapter of miracles, Jesus says the workers for the harvest are few. He does not mention door to door evangelism. He does not mention learning strategies for telling your store clerk about Jesus in 45 seconds or less. He heals people who show faith and then calls for workers.

Sometimes we get caught up in what is and isn’t the Good News. I am pretty sure the good news is that Jesus cam to bring healing and restoration to humanity. Many parts of the Church seem to assume that is a spiritual call only. But Jesus’ own actions would seem to indicate that it is physical as well. In fact, in most of the stories in Matthew 9, the physical healing is all we hear about!

So, here is my question: If you think these miracles were just for Jesus and the early church, why? I used to say that, but I never understood why I said that other than I thought I should. Is it ok for the gospel to be about more than just a person’s spiritual state? Can it also be about physical, emotional, or relational healing?

Discuss. I would really like to hear your thoughts- leave a comment below.

Weakness

One of the main reasons I took the job as youth pastor at South Hutch (soon to be Journey!) Mennonite Church was that I thought I couldn’t actually do the job. I thought it was more than I was actually capable of doing. I knew, that everyday when I woke up to be a pastor at this church, it would be beyond what I could do on my own.

And you know what? I was right. Oh boy was I right. I mean, how may people get stuck in a country they didn’t mean to be in where they don’t speak the language with 11 high school students along for the ride? There have been more times than I can count in the last three years where I have walked into situations where all I can do as I walk in is say, “God, HELP!” I have cried more and prayed more in the last 3 years than I did in the 10 years before that. But I have also seen God bring healing and hope and restoration and himself  over and over and over.
And I am thankful, that after three years, I feel no more able to “control” or “handle” what God has called me to. It is still beyond what I can do.
Here’s why I think it’s important:
Moses led a couple million people and he didn’t like speaking in public. So God did the leading.
Paul had a public image problem since he spent the early years of adulthood persecuting the followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit sent him region to region to proclaim Christ. And he had that whole thorn in the flesh thing. And God did the leading and changing of people.
We could look through all of the Bible and see story after story of people who were insufficient for the task but followed a completely sufficient God.
Here’s what Paul had to say in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

(God) said to me, “My grace<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(P)”> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Q)”> is made perfect in weakness.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(R)”>”<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(S)”> Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(T)”> in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(U)”> in persecutions,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(V)”> in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Here is a great truth: God meets us in our weakness and works from there. When we quit thinking we can do any of His kingdom stuff on our own, then he will equip us to really do kingdom work.

How are you allowing God to meet you in your weakness and call you into His work?